Green screens or blue screens are used as backdrops in chroma key photography, which is a process that replaces a solid-colored background from behind the subject of a photo (or video) with a new background. When you watch the weather forecaster on TV standing in front of a map, or Spiderman climbing down a building, you, my friend, are seeing chroma key photography at work!
You may be wondering, “Why use a green screen or a blue screen?” Because separating a background from a human subject in a photo or video is much easier if the background is made of a solid color which is not found in human skin tones, like the colors green and blue. (Remember, we’re talking humans here, not Martians or Smurfs.) The practice of chroma keying can seem daunting at first, so be sure to read through this guide to green screens to get started on the right track.
Tools for Getting Started with Green Screens
Can a beginner really do this? Removing and replacing photo backgrounds does sound complicated, doesn’t it? Not to worry! With digital photography and software designed specifically for this purpose, you can be swapping backgrounds with the best of them in no time. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
1. Digital camera. You’ve got one already, right?
2. A computer. Either a PC or a Mac is fine.
3. A cable to download images from camera to computer. (Duh.)
4. Chroma key photography software. As with most software, you’ll run into a lot of green screen programs that are only compatible with PCs. But there are some made for both types of operating systems. For example, the Green Screen Software by Savage is compatible with both PCs and Macs. 5. Green screen background. There are many on the market, so before you buy, carefully consider how you’ll be using yours. For an occasional fun shot, or as a frequently used tool for your photography business? For studio shots only, or mostly for outdoor sessions? Here are the differences to consider:
- SIZE: For example, 5’ x 7’ for photographing individuals, or 10’ x 20’ for group shots or full-body pictures.
- PORTABLE vs. STATIONARY: a collapsible pop-up screen or a rolled-up backdrop.
- MATERIAL: If you’ve taken a look online at green screen backdrop options, you’ve no doubt seen them in several types of material.
- fabric (muslin, polyester)
- paint (to color a wall in your studio)
Whatever you choose, stay away from glossy or shiny materials since one of the issues with chroma key photography is the bounce-back color from reflective backgrounds. (More about this later.)
Read more: How to Choose a Green Screen Backdrop
Featuring: Chroma Green Vinyl Backdrop 10′ x 20′
6. Background stands: If you have a studio and have been using other backgrounds, you may already own a stand to hang backdrop rolls from. But if you don’t have a studio set up, or the money or space for background stands, look for one of the smaller, collapsible green screens that comes with hanging hooks or a portable stand.
7. Studio lighting: Getting the best possible contrast between your background and your model is key for chroma key work, so you’ll need a well-lit green screen. For outdoor shooting in brightly lit areas, you’ll probably be fine with natural light. But for indoor shots, you’ll need professional equipment.
8. Digital backgrounds: Here’s the fun part! Selecting a new photo background for your subject. Let’s say you want the look of a studio backdrop. You can select digital backgrounds that look just like muslin. Or if you prefer your subject in a more natural setting, look for digital backgrounds with trees, mountains, or waterfalls. For fun shots, there are backgrounds of famous landmarks, or you can put your subjects in a frame with a holiday greeting on it. The available choices seem to be endless! The Savage Photo Creator Kit comes with an extensive image library of 3,000+ digital backgrounds to choose from!
9. Depending on your project, you may need a green screen suit! Check out this helpful video to learn how to use one.